There are a lot of questions in parents’ minds about the holidays, and about how much good (or bad) they are doing for their kids and families. We will focus on the interplay between holidays and families over the next few weeks of this 2014 holiday season.
Halloween, it seems, is second only to Christmas in the minds of kids — and in the minds of retailers and merchandisers.
The pumpkins and witches and goblins that have been up for a month (in our driveways and in the stores) will come down as November starts and be immediately replaced with Santas and reindeer.
Our personal favorite holiday of all — Thanksgiving — gets completely lost in the transition. Apparently, other than for the producers of turkeys, there is not a lot of commercial value in Thanksgiving.
We will tell you in the next couple of columns why we love Thanksgiving so much and feel that it is the most wonderful family holiday of all. But for today, let's focus on Halloween:
It is a mixed bag.
On the positive side, it's a marvelously imaginative holiday. It’s good for kids (and adults) to get outside themselves and “be something else” for a few hours as they dress up. It’s especially good when we let the kids figure out their own costumes and decorations and use their own imaginations.
In many neighborhoods, it's a great coming-together holiday. We meet our neighbors and friends as we trick-or-treat or trunk-or-treat.
And there is something magical about tromping around on crunchy leaves on a crisp, moonlit, late-autumn night together with friends and family.
But on the negative side, the commercialization of Halloween can drive you a little nuts. House decorations that can cost hundreds of dollars? Similarly expensive costumes? Retail spook alleys and haunted houses that cost more than a concert?
And the candy — oh, the candy. If it doesn’t make your kids sick, it will at least put them on one of those dreaded “sugar highs.” We tried everything to get away from it, like giving out apples instead. We tried rationing the consumption to two or three treats a day, but then they ended up eating candy every day for months. Our best idea was sending our kids out early and then using the candy they collected to give out to trick-or-treaters who came to our house for the rest of the evening.
And the ghoulishness of it all. Are blood and monsters and zombies really the best use of our kids’ imaginations? (We liked it so much better when they got creative enough to dress up as a marshmallow or a turtle.)
And perhaps the biggest negative is the one we mentioned earlier: Halloween becomes the lead-in to Christmas as we jump from one to the other. But the best forerunner of Christmas is not witches and goblins. It is Thanksgiving, when we count our blessings and give thanks, which prepares our minds and hearts for the birthday of Christ.
So, have fun with Halloween. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. But don’t get too caught up in it. Our daughter Saydi had some great advice on her blog, bostonshumways.blogspot.com, where she said, in part:
“Too often, we mothers take over Halloween. We worry about how (kids’ costumes) reflect on who we are as mothers. … Let your kids take on some of your load. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the secrets to being able to enjoy Halloween as a mom. … Things might not look so picture-perfect, but we’ll all be smiling and that’s really the point. Right now, I’m working upstairs, interrupted only by squeals of delight coming from the basement as the kids try on and assemble their Halloween costumes and put up their own version of spooky decor.”
Our daughter Saren also has some powerful tips on the website powerofmoms.com, where she gives a list of how deliberate mothers handle Halloween.
So, good luck. And remember, the minute Halloween is over, shift full force into Thanksgiving.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and the founders of JoySchools.com who speak throughout the world on marriage and parenting. Their two new books are "The Turning" and "The Thankful Heart."